I had a little bit of bicycle trouble recently. I needed to make some repairs. I know my way around a bike fairly well so I made them myself but, let me tell you, they were not without frustration. If I remember correctly my bike is just over three years old now. I’ve ridden it through three summers and two winters (I skipped that first winter). This is my fourth summer on it so I guess it was time for some serious repairs.

I ride my bike in a lot of bad weather. Not monsoon type rain but I do go out when it’s a light rain or after a big rain when the roads might still be wet. I’ve even been caught in a downpour every now and again but I try not to go out when that looks like a possibility. The rain is probably harder on the bike than the winter riding I do. Then it’s just out in the cold. It’s not like I ride when it’s snowing out so in the winter the bike doesn’t get very wet. I don’t think bikes like rain rides very much.

The first thing I noticed going wrong was an odd clicking sound that the bike made when I pedaled. It sounded like it was coming from the pedal cranks but it was hard to tell. It was obviously happening in a rotating pattern and it only happened when I put some force on the pedals. Had to be the cranks. But it would only make the noise when a lot of force was applied. That’s what made it so hard to figure out. When I put the bike up on my bike stand and pedaled it with my hand it didn’t make the noise. The force of my legs pushing down on the pedals as I rode made something click. I ended up oiling the cranks over a series of rides before the noise went away. I’m still not sure exactly what made those clicks.

That did lead me to make a detailed inspection of my bike. It’s needed a tune-up for a little while so I gave it the once over. The back tired has been a bit out of true, which makes it wobble, so I decided to see if I could adjust the tension on the spokes to make things right. That’s when I noticed I had a broken spoke. I’ve never replaced a broken spoke before so I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a place on the internet that sold individual spokes. There were some sets of spokes but they were more expensive than a cheap new rim. I also wasn’t too sure of the size of the spoke I should get.

That lead me to try and live with the broken spoke for now and adjust the others to compensate if they could. I’ve tightened spokes before but have never trued a wheel. That’s tricky business. I got out my pliers and gave it a try but was having trouble turning the spokes. I ended up going to the internet and ordering a proper spoke wrench to see if that would help. When I got it a couple of days later I put my bike on the stand and tried to adjust the spokes. Nothing. They wouldn’t budge. They were all frozen in place. I guess all that rain riding did them in. I tried to force one but only ended up snapping it as I figured I would. Now I had two broken spokes. I broke down and ordered a new rim for about $50.

I learned years ago that when you buy a rim for a bike’s back tire it doesn’t come with gears on it. You can use your old gears or make an additional $30 purchase. I chose my old gears. That means I need a special little gear wrench to get them off. I already had one from my last bike but when I got the new rim I discovered my new bike needed a different gear wrench. Instead of two prongs this one had eleven. Back to the internet I went but found two different eleven pronged gear wrenches. I flipped a coin and picked one. A couple of days later it arrived and it’s a good thing they’re only about eight bucks because I picked the wrong one. I went back and ordered the other.

Meanwhile all this time, about a week and a half, I had still been riding my bike with two broken spokes on the back wheel. The wheel was still stable but it being out of true meant that I had to widen the brake pads so the wheel could spin without rubbing against them. This cuts down on braking power. The first time I rode it that way I had to be really careful because I didn’t have enough braking power to make myself comfortable. I adjusted them a little tighter but still couldn’t wait to get the new back tire up and running.

I even ordered a chain whip wrench along with the gear wrench. That wrench is for gripping the gears as you turn the gear wrench counter to it in order to loose the gear cassette. I think when I did this years ago with my last bike I just jammed the gear cassette against a piece of wood so it wouldn’t move but I figured for twelve bucks I’d be a little more sophisticated this time and it feels good to add tools to the ol’ tool box. It makes me feel like I’m prepared for things.

After getting the second gear wrench in the mail things went fairly smoothly. The gears came off the original rim easily but it took a couple of minutes of observation to figure out how to get them on the new one. There are a bunch of grooves and ridges on the thing and they only line up one way. At first the pattern of grooves and ridges appeared to be symmetrical but it wasn’t. I also had a slight amount of trouble getting the tire tread under the bead of the new rim in the spot near the intake stem but eventually I got it.

The bicycle runs smoothly now. No noise in the crank and no wobble in the back wheel. And most importantly I got my braking power back. It’s good to be able to stop when I want to. There’s less fear in the ride that way.